China’s Mars probes suspend activities due to ‘solar outage’

Orbiter and rover halt operations due to solar electromagnetic radiation, says China’s National Space Administration

BEIJING (AA) – China’s Mars orbiter and rover have suspended exploration since mid-September due to a “solar outage,” the China National Space Administration said early Wednesday.

It said a “solar outage” refers to the situation where Mars and Earth move to either side of the Sun and are almost perfectly aligned. During this period, communications between the two planets is disrupted due to increased solar electromagnetic radiation.

The outage will last until mid-October.

China’s Tianwen-1 mission was launched on July 23, 2020 and reconnaissance vehicles arrived on the Red Planet on Feb. 10, 2021.

“Tianwen,” which means “Heavenly Questions” or “Questions to Heaven” in Chinese, takes its name from the lines of the Chinese poet Qu Yuan, who lived in the 4th century BC. The Mars rover, however, is named after Zhurong, the god of fire and war in Chinese mythology.

China is emerging as a new power in the space race led by the US and Russia with its ambitious steps towards Lunar and Mars exploration missions, satellite technology and manned space expeditions in recent years.

China, which has made serious progress in developing its own space program with the satellites, rockets, shuttles, reconnaissance vehicles and other equipment it has produced over the past 20 years, is working to establish its own space station in addition to the lunar exploration program Chang’e-I.

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